4G vs. 4G LTE

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Friday, 30 March 2012

Mobile Broadband FAQ #16: 4G vs. 4G LTE?

tip_of_the_week.pngThe mobile broadband experts at 3Gstore/EVDOinfo answer countless questions from our customers and from the EVDO Forums community every day - from general mobile broadband questions ("what the heck does 3G mean?") to specific questions about products to more advanced inquiries about what one can do with their mobile broadband service. The "mobile broadband FAQ" series addresses these questions in depth one FAQ at a time. To view ALL of the FAQs we've addressed in this series, visit

4G vs. 4G LTE


Unless you've been living under a rock, chances are that you've heard about newer 4G and 4G LTE technology. However, the problem is a lot of users don't understand the difference between the terms. The primary reason for the confusion resolves around the carriers calling service 4G, when it's technically not a fourth generation wireless network. Below you'll find a breakdown of all the different technologies and what type of speeds you can anticipate receiving.



Sprint and CLEAR were the first companies to launch a 4G network using WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). The technology was a complete overhaul from their older legacy CDMA network, and was designed to provide customers with speeds around 3-6Mbps down (Bursts over 10Mbps) and upload speeds around 1 to 1.5Mbps. This was a considerable jump from CDMA, which had a maximum theoretic speed of 3.1Mbps download and 1.8Mbps upload, with real world speeds around 600-1.4Mbps download and 400-700Kbps upload.

Soon after the WiMAX launch, users soon realized the limitation of using 2.5Ghz to fuel 4G data connections. The higher frequency creates a shorter wavelength, which means the technology has difficulty penetrating buildings. Many found that they needed an outdoor WiMAX antenna in order to maintain reliable service. Sprint is now working on developing a 4G LTE network under their network vision plans that will replace their 4G WiMAX technology. If you already have a 4G WiMAX device don't worry, Sprint intends to support WiMAX until 2015.  


Shortly after WiMAX launched, T-Mobile upgraded their network to HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access Plus) and re-branded the technology "4G". Although this isn't a true fourth generation technology, it didn't stop them from advertising it as such. The 4G campaign was built around their 21Mbps downlink speeds, and has been upgrading to 42Mbps in some areas.

Following T-Mobiles heels, AT&T was quick to re-brand their HSPA+ as 4G too, and further added to the confusion. Most new AT&T devices operating on HSPA+ are capable of up to 14.4Mbps download and 5.8Mbps upload. This isn't quite as fast as T-Mobiles "4G" network, but significantly faster than older 3G GSM networks. You can use our 3G/4G coverage map to check coverage, however, AT&T's map only gives a generic color for 4G. At this time AT&T has significantly more 4G HSPA+ coverage than they do with 4G LTE.


Last December Verizon Wireless was the first carrier to offer a true fourth generation 4G LTE network launching in 38 markets. Within the last year they've deployed 4G LTE to over 200 markets and anticipate covering their entire 3G network with 4G LTE by the end of 2013. Their 4G LTE network is designed to deliver average speeds around 5-12Mbps download and 2-5Mbps upload with a peak theoretic speed of 73Mbps. As you can see 4G LTE gives you significantly more bandwidth than both 4G WiMAX and 4G HSPA+ networks.

AT&T was a bit late with their 4G LTE network and debuted their fourth generation LTE network in November, nearly a year after Verizon launched theirs. Both Verizon and AT&T have comparable speeds, however, AT&T only has true 4G LTE coverage in 28 markets as of March 30th, 2012. The speeds offered make true 4G LTE the most desirable technology to use if it's available in your area. Knowing the difference between 4G and 4G LTE will also be important if you need any type of amplifier to help boost service if you have signal related issues.

What frequencies do the carriers use?

If you live in an area with weak reception there are a variety of antennas and amplifiers that can improve reliability and speed. However, with all these different technologies it's very important to identify which technology your using, so you can identify compatible accessories. Below you'll find a quick reference on the frequency you'll need based on your type of 4G connection:

  • Sprint 4G WiMAX: 2.5Ghz
  • T-Mobile HSPA+ 4G: 1700/2100Mhz AWS
  • Verizon 4G LTE: 700Mhz between 746-787Mhz*
  • AT&T 4G LTE: 700Mhz between 704-746Mhz*
  • AT&T 4G HSPA+: 800/1900Mhz

* Verizon and AT&T LTE antennas are cross compatible but amplifiers are carrier specific

When selecting a provider it's very important to check what type of technology your device supports. You also want to verify what type of 4G is available in your area so you know what type of speeds to expect out of the equipment. For most users looking to purchase equipment we recommend picking up a 4G LTE device to ensure compatibility with the fastest network currently available.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 03 March 2014 )
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